Vocational and Spiritual Exploration
Vocational and Spiritual Exploration courses provide a spiritual dimension to a person's life and career exploration. According to James Fowler, "Vocation is the response a person makes with his or her total self to the address of God and the calling to partnership." VSE courses are open to all students regardless of academic major and are designed for personal spiritual growth.
The VSE program also serves as a pre-professional program for students considering religious service as a primary career. The VSE program involves 6 credit hours of course work plus a major or minor in Religion. A semester-long, supervised internship is required that includes a weekly peer group and significant personal reflection.
Is VSE for me?
The Program is for students of any major who are in one of the following categories.
- planning on pursuing a career in a church, synagogue, or mosque related vocation
- planning on being involved in religious service as a volunteer
- wanting to learn and practice a variety of skills involved in a career in a church, synagogue, or mosque
- planning on attending seminary, rabbinical school, or other graduate level education related to a career in a church, synagogue, or mosque
- considering post-graduate short-term or vocational missions or humanitarian service
Participation in the VSE program involves the following requirements:
- Be accepted into the program on recommendation of the student's faith community and approval of the Dean of the Chapel.
- Successfully complete a major or a minor in Religion.
- Successfully complete VSE 201Finding One's Calling during their first fall semester in the program.
- Successfully complete VSE 203 Vocational and Spiritual Exploration Internship.
- Successfully complete any two classes chosen from VSE 205, 209, or 211.
- Maintain active membership in Sigma Epsilon Pi.
- Maintain active involvement in a campus religious organization including Jewell Chapel.
- Participate in a ministry project at least once per semester or be employed/involved in a local faith community.
Are you interested in applying to the VSE program? Students interested in the VSE program should …
- Complete the VSE application
- Give the completed application to their Minister, Rabbi, or other religious leader.
- Talk with their Minister, Rabbi, or other religious leader about their commitment to and interest in religious service.
- The Minister, Rabbi, or other religous leader sends the application to the Dean of the Chapel along with a letter affirming the student’s pursuit of a vocation related to religious service.
Each year, one or two students are named Hester Scholars. This distinction is awarded to a student majoring in Religion and preparing for a career in religious service who excels in scholarship, religious service and leadership.
To qualify as a Hester Scholar, students should be in the top 25% of their high school graduating class; evidence leadership and involvement in school community and faith community; agree to major in the study of religion; and state their commitment to professional service through pastoral ministry, teaching, or missions. The Talent/Co-curricular Financial Award for a Hester Scholar is more significant than the VSE award.
Students who would like to be considered for a Hester Scholar award should complete the VSE application and submit an additional essay on the topic, “What role do you see academic study playing in your preparation for and ongoing commitment to professional religious ministry/career?” The application, letter of recommendation, and essay should be submitted to the Dean of the Chapel. Hester Scholars are determined by the faculty of the Department of Religion.
Pre-Seminary/Rabbinical School Study
William Jewell College follows closely the recommendation of the American Association of Theological Schools on pre-seminary/rabbinical school study. A summary of college recommendations follows.
Recommendations for Pre-Seminary/Rabbinical School Studies
Skills and Mindset
- Communication skills: writing and speaking.
- Ability to think critically.
- Appreciation for the Abrahamic traditions while remaining attentive to one’s own and others’ experiences.
- Awareness of growing sense of moral responsibility, both personal and social.
- Awareness of the world and its complexities.
- A fundamental understanding of the tools and methods of biblical interpretation.
- A basic grasp of biblical history and the Judeo-Christian heritage.
- An awareness of the theological and biblical resources that shape Judeo-Christian ethics.
- Familiarity with the historical, philosophical, and literary developments of Western civilization.
- Awareness of religious traditions beyond the Jewish and Christian traditions.
- A basic competence in Greek syntax, grammar, and reading skills.
- Some basic hands-on experience in ministry (through the VSE program).
Subjects in Pre-Seminary Study
By combining their study in the Department of Religion department with a complementary area of study at William Jewell, students will be better prepared for the significant learning experiences of seminary and for the field of service to which they have been called. The religion major normally requires six four-hour courses, plus an additional course or project, approved by the Department, of two or five hours. This requirement leaves enough hours to pursue another area of study to provide a solid liberal arts base for seminary or rabbinical study.
Possible combinations are:
Pastoral Ministry – religion + literature or history
Sacred/Liturgical Music– religion + music
Family Life Programs/Recreation– religion + physical education
Evangelism – religion + communication
Mission Field – religion + foreign language
Faith-related Counseling – religion + psychology
Denominational Service – religion + business
All pre-seminary/rabbinical students should have the chair of the Department of Religion or a professor of that department serve as an academic advisor throughout their course of study. When a major other than religion is chosen, a joint program of advising will be undertaken with a member of the department of major study advising in academic matters pertaining to the major. The double major (religion plus another area) is strongly recommended.
Sigma Epsilon Pi
Students interested in ministry or religious service are invited to participate in Sigma Epsilon Pi, the formal organization of students considering such vocations.